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Good Playlist: Immigration podcasts ▶️

Hear about everything from individual immigrants' stories to the latest in policy debates.

- January 26, 2024

So far this fiscal year, Congress has been unable to pass a budget. That’s in part because a faction of Republicans insist they will only vote for a deal that includes funding to “shut down” migration at the U.S. southern border. At the state level, some states are passing initiatives that offer in-state tuition for undocumented immigrants, while others floated barbed wire across the Rio Grande to stop migrants.

Here’s a way you can come up to speed on U.S. immigration policy, both in our current moment and historically, through podcasts.  

Immigration in the United States has been racialized, making discussions of race necessary for a full understanding of immigration policy from any point of view. NPR’s Code Switch discusses how race affects every part of society. These episodes examine race and immigration with compassion and intelligence.  

Since Latinos are the largest immigrant group in the United States, immigration policies and the racialization of those policies define the Latino experience in America. Latino USA explores the lived experiences of Latinos from a cultural, political, and social perspective. These episodes are particularly insightful about the relationship of Latino immigrants to the United States – a history older than the U.S. itself.

Stepping into policy issues, immigration is one of the most polarizing topics in American politics. The Rational Middle seeks to have thoughtful conversations with leaders, lawmakers, business folks, and regular citizens to find common ground in the big conversation about comprehensive immigration policy reform. In these two episodes, academic guests discuss the economic impact of migrant labor and the immigration policy loopholes that create conditions like immigrant child labor in America.

To listen to a bipartisan cast of experts synthesize and discuss the latest and most notable developments in immigration policy, try This Week in Immigration, presented by the Bipartisan Policy Center. Here you’ll hear thoughtful analyses from policy experts, politicians, and academics about the latest policy movements at the state and federal level. The great thing about this podcast is the range and expertise of the hosts and guests; these are really great conversations for immigration beginners and experts.

Looking at American immigration law from the lawyer’s perspective, Immigration Uncovered includes helpful updates on immigration cases happening today. James Pittman discusses immigration law and brings experienced legal professionals to discuss salient immigration policy topics. In these two episodes, academic and legal guests explain the relevance of immigration policy over time, and discuss the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) website, one of the best data sources for immigration statistics. 

Similarly, on Immigration Review, Kevin A. Gregg unpacks the most recent immigration case summaries. Every Monday, Gregg sifts through the week’s legal decisions from the Supreme Court, all the U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeals, and the Board of Immigration Appeals, and explains them – without the legal jargon. 

While those podcasts try to see immigration from a theoretically neutral point of view, Daniel Denvir’s Jacobin podcast The Dig takes a strongly leftist look at politics, history, and economics everywhere. These episodes examine immigration in particular. 

Once we’ve learned about the policies that shape immigrants’ lives, it’s important to hear how immigrants themselves have been affected. For discussions about immigration from the immigrant perspective, try Modern Immigrant. The host, named Vero (just the one name) interviews immigrants about their experiences – good, sad, and personal. It’s heartbreaking and endearing to hear how immigration policy affects these individual migrants.

These two older podcasts, which are no longer producing new episodes, are nevertheless really helpful as introductions to immigration policy.

In UCTV Immigration, University of California faculty and guests discuss the consequences and implications of U.S. immigration policy. These podcasts are recorded panel discussions, imagine being in a room with thoughtful and experienced academics talking about immigration politics. Further, topics discussed on the podcast remain urgent today. 

Catarina Wignall offered a great podcast, Talking Immigration, for those seeking a primer on immigration policy, including what is DACA and how does it work?